PARIS, May 25 – Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal each kept on course for their fifth French Open titles on Tuesday, but twice-beaten finalist Dinara Safina crashed out to a player who'll be 40 in September.
Henin was appearing at her first Roland Garros since 2007 following her spell in retirement and beat Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-3, while Nadal eased past French teenager Gianni Mina 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
But Russian ninth seed Safina had a day to forget, as the former world number one fell 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 to 39-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm — the event’s oldest female match-winner since Virginia Wade in 1985.
Men’s sixth seed Andy Roddick came through a five-setter to beat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 and there were also wins for Spanish seeds David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Henin, the number 22 seed, is bidding for her fifth Roland Garros title after stepping away from tennis on the eve of the 2008 tournament.
The 27-year-old Belgian cut short her retirement at the beginning of the year and will face Czech Klara Zakopalova in the second round.
"I never expected to be back here again on this court," said Henin after taking her first steps on Court Philippe Chatrier since she overwhelmed Ana Ivanovic in the 2007 final.
Four-time champion Nadal saw off nine break points against 18-year-old wild card Mina, who was making his Grand Slam debut, as he breezed into a second-round meeting with Argentina’s Horacio Zaballos.
"My goal is always to play my best tennis. I would love to come back here every year as defending champion but that’s impossible," said the Spanish world number two, who lost his title to Roger Federer last year after a fourth-round defeat against Robin Soderling.
The unexpected star of the day was Date Krumm, a semi-finalist in 1995, who will meet Australian wildcard Jarmila Groth in round two after seeing off a sour-tempered Safina, whose season has been hampered by a lower back injury.
"Three weeks ago I injured my calf and to play against Safina on (Court) Suzanne Lenglen, I was already happy just to be here," said Date Krumm, who came back from 4-1 down in the third set despite injuring her calf.
Safina, 24, who was just three when Date Krumm mader her debut here in 1989, committed 17 double faults in the match.
"I couldn’t work on my serve until I came here. I was serving really good at the beginning but I got tight and lost the motion and that’s when I started to make more double faults," she said.
Russian 29th seed Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova booked her place in the next round with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat of home favourite Alize Cornet, while Slovakian 23rd seed Daniela Hantuchova thrashed Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1, 6-1.
Israeli 18th seed Shahar Peer and Russian 21st seed Vera Zvonareva will also compete for a place in round three after both won in straight sets.
Former world number one Maria Sharapova was set to begin her tournament against Russian compatriot Ksenia Pervak later on Tuesday.
Roddick will face Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic for a place in the last 32 after his five-set ordeal against Nieminen on Philippe Chatrier.
The big-hitting American had skipped the entire claycourt season for what he called "personal reasons" and had to dig deep before eventually overcoming his wily 28-year-old opponent in three hours and 19 minutes.
"I’ve been pretty good at sticking around. The majority of the matches I win aren’t pretty," said Roddick. "But I’ve made a career out of that."
Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the seventh seed, eased past Russia’s Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, but Argentine 26th seed Juan Monaco fell 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to Slovenian qualifier Grega Zemlja, the world 141.
Ninth seed Ferrer triumphed 6-1 6-3 6-1 over Frenchman David Guez, with Ferrero, the number 16 seed, a 6-4 6-3 6-1 winner against Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.
Austrian 22nd seed Juergen Melzer and German 30th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber both won in straight sets, but 18th seed Sam Querrey of the USA lost in four sets to countryman Robby Ginepri.